Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 36, No. 1, 97–112, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This paper presents a study on the development of the Finnish National Core Curricula for Basic Education (NCC), published in 1985, 1994 and 2004.
This study aimed to extend the understanding of the role of the core curriculum in promoting literacy education.
It focuses on a three-fold question as follows:
How do curriculum designers conceptualise literacy, the purposes of literacy education and the cross curricular intentions of literacy education from the 1980s to the present day?
The data are drawn from the three Finnish National Core Curricula for Basic Education (NCC), published respectively in 1985, 1994 and 2004.
The strategy for organising and analysing the curricula contents was based on inductive document analysis.
The analysis reflected on the basis of Finnish literacy education resting on curricula over 25 years old. The six changes in approach detected in curricula content over 30 years reveal that the educational orientations to literacy curricula have developed alongside the contemporary policy strategies and pedagogical trends of responding to increasingly complex diversity within schools. The Finnish literacy curricula from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s reflected the dilemma of subjectivity and cognitively oriented education.
The dominant idea has been that strong cognitive instruments empower and elicit students’ educational potential.
The early 2000s are an era of culmination.
Finnish teachers are presently facing a confusion of 20-year-old cognitive literacy conceptions and the new socio-cultural ambitions of multilingual multi-media and community-based literacies.
The ongoing renewing policy (Basic Education Act 2010/642; Special Education Strategy 2007) for educational inclusion has made this possible by creating the step-up support curriculum.
Thus, student diversity appears as a fundamental manifestation of the richness of human experience.
Indeed, teachers play a crucial role in the evolution of the new education system.
The results suggest that the literacy curricula did not encourage teachers enough to engage in collaborative pedagogy that would promote the construction of the students’ experimental and interactive relationship with the academic content and the surrounding culture.
The curricula analysed reflected a neglect of students’ own experiences, feelings and identity-forming in learning.
Thus, the curriculum emphasizing cognitive orientation represents a narrow interpretation of curriculum design.
The problem is topical in the Finnish curriculum discourse and it is also the main developmental challenge, especially in literacy education.
Thus there is a need for a more comprehensive interpretation of the curriculum as an intentional and dynamic process, revealing the values, experiences and emotions in relation to literacy learning, and the cultural and political purposes of education.
To realise the unpredictability of the postmodern information society is a demanding process.
The findings confirm the importance of encouraging prospective teachers to reflect their learning and teaching experiences critically on initial teacher education programmes.
This might make them more sensitive to school students’ experiences and needs, consider alternative learning structures and engage in curriculum development later in their careers.
In addition, every curriculum should be based on explicitly formulated interdisciplinary curriculum theories with connections to literacy conceptualisations.
The author concludes that teacher education needs to focus on preparing teachers for future-oriented, proactive curriculum design, rather than providing them with rhetorical and homogeneous curricula that perpetuate the status quo of teacher education within narrowly focused specific disciplines.